Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

I win! (today)

Posted on | October 19, 2010 | 4 Comments

Round bales of hay are very convenient.  And wasteful.  Perhaps they are fine for cows and horses.  But goats tear huge long strips off the roll.  They eat two mouthfuls of the strip and then trample the rest of it around the barn.  So eventually I have to haul away huge loads of nasty hay down to the garden.

Goats also climb on top of the rolls.  Which is cute.  Until they defecate up there, soiling the hay, and then (reasonably) refusing to eat it.  Not cute.  Not cute at all.  Even if the goats don’t soil the hay, the chickens will roost up there, leaving their own droppings.  As well as hiding their eggs right in the middle of the roll where no one can reach.  Except for the livestock guardian dog, who climbs up, eats the eggs (in total violation of his contract), and rolls in the droppings, further loosening strips of hay.  And I already told you what happens to strips of hay.

I have seen the enemy and he is Legion.

To further compound the problem, my barn has room for one and a half round bales underneath the roof line.  They don’t sell half of a round bale.  So I have to settle for only one bale and roll another bale up the hill again in 4 months or less, depending on how much tearing, climbing, and soiling has gone on.  Which makes me feel too close to Sisyphus for comfort.

Obviously, the only way to make round bales even worth the effort is to:

1.  keep the goats from tearing off strips

2.  keep the goats from climbing on top of the hay and soiling it

3. keep the chickens from roosting on the hay and soiling it

4. find a hot guy willing to come over whenever I want and roll bales of hay into the barn while I sit on the deck, watching and sipping green tea

Wait, I mean,

4. find a way to extend the roof line without spending more than the $18 left in the Barn Funds jar on top of the fridge.

It’s almost like one of those ridiculous word problems involving a bus going to Cleveland and a train headed for Philadelphia that left 10 minutes apart, at varying speeds, and figuring which one will arrive first.  I know there’s a way to solve the problem without checking the bus schedule on the Internet, I just don’t remember how to do it.  Besides, there aren’t any animals in those problems and everyone knows that animals are the Pi in any equation.

But despite overwhelming odds and an inability to remember 5th grade math, I actually solved this dilemma.  I did it!  I really did it!  Are you ready for it?  Really?  Here it is:

I rolled 2 bales into the barn.  I attached a section of cattle panel (that I had laying around) to some field fencing (that I had laying around) and wrapped it around the bales so the goats can only pull off mouth-sized bites.  Then I covered the section of bale that extends out from under the roof with an old truck bed liner (that I had laying around).  It’s all strung together with leftover baling twine (that I had laying around).  Between the fencing and bed liner it is unappealing to climb on.  And even if critters mange to get up there, any droppings will run right off in the grooves of the bed liner.  Just like the rain.  If it was anymore clever I’d get a patent.  Although I’m not sure if you can patent Things-That-You-Have-Laying-Around.

Of course, I have to give credit where credit is due.  The Other Half was in charge of pick up, delivery, most of the rolling up hill, stretching of the field fencing, and lifting of the bed liner.  Which makes it seem like all I did was watch.  However, I did clear any dangerous objects out of the way and cut pieces of baling twine for tying everything together.  Just imagine how wrong things could have gone if I wasn’t in charge of that.  I mean, really.

Also, the inspiration for using the bed liner came from the husband of a friend of mine.  He was over dropping off a generator when he asked me why I had a truck bed liner on my front lawn.  So explained that no one on craigslist wanted to pay $50 for it but I wasn’t sick enough of looking at it yet to post it on freecycle.  “It’s  a shame,” he said, “Sure would make a good roof for a poultry pen.”

Now you might not take such a comment seriously.  But Aforementioned Husband is quite an expert at ergonomic reuse.  As a matter of fact, he is a specialist in items being repaired, reused, or repurposed.  He has given me wooden boxes and crates for next boxes, dog houses, and flooring.  He has told me where to find old windows and doors for our home addition and pre-built side panels for barns.  When Aformentioned Husband speaks, I listen.  So when I was pondering what could keep the rain and weather off the second round bale sticking out from under the eaves, his words immediately popped into my head.  Not for keeping poultry safe and dry maybe, but perfect for protecting hay.  Aforementioned Husband might just be an ergonomic reuse prophet.  (But don’t tell his wife I said so—she has to live with him and I still want me and her to be friends.)

So, in the end, I triumphed over the trouble with round bales.  Goats, chickens, and livestock guardians can eat my dust.  I win!  At least for today.  Tomorrow I’ll have to address this:

Calico Jack is still getting out of the buck pen.  He spends his days lounging on the roof of his barn instead under it like good goat.  Despite additional fencing, pallets, and wires.  Despite breaking his leg last month during an escape.  Despite the fact that he still can’t access the females if he gets out (thank goodness!).  I guess I”ll deal with him tomorrow.

I hope it goes well.  But I won’t lose sleep over it if he’s out again by the weekend.  After all,  I’d bet money that the person who invented the saying, “You cant win ’em all” was a farmer.  Had to be.


4 Responses to “I win! (today)”

  1. Tamsen
    October 20th, 2010 @ 8:26 am

    I love this and as a patent lawyer, yes you can patent it, though you might want to give it a little more substance so they dont grab the wires and just haul them out of the freaking way! We’ll wait a couple months and see what further modifications might be needed…

    I built a chicken pen out of old 1X4 welded wire (quonset hut shaped) with an oven rack for a door, and old vinyl tablecloth for rain protection, and a 18″ welded wire (0.5X2) skirt to keep the critters from digging under, or flipping it. There are 3 1X4 boards slid through the welded wire to give me a ledge to set the food and water on near the door. The whole thing was put together with Zip ties, and the poking out wires on the edges and I built it ALL by myself. Right brain didn’t have to help. I can move it by myself easily, and when the dogs get close, they are standing on the skirt, so can’t do anything but drool. Whoowee. I am the barn GODDESS!!!

  2. forensicfarmgirl
    October 21st, 2010 @ 7:57 am

    Awesome solution! Love it! We’re always fighting the same problem!

  3. Duane Keys
    December 30th, 2010 @ 8:09 am

    Is it still working?

  4. admin
    December 30th, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

    Yes! The hay rolls have been eaten back a little off each side to the point where they fit almost entirely under the truck bed liner. It has stayed dry and clean and there is only about an inch of loose hay spread around the base of it. This is amazing since normally there was 5-6 inches of wasted hay dropped all around the rolls in the past. The only bad thing I can say is I actually I have to keep a few square bales around so when it is kidding time or if the temps drop a lot I have some hay to spread around for thick bedding. But that’s a problem I don’t mind at all!

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